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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill 2010: Part IV

Provincial Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Cabinet Composition

There are several articles that puts forward provisions relating to the ministerial teams. Three are particularly problematic.

Article 52 :
(1) The President shall appoint not more than twenty-one persons as Ministers, or such number of Ministers as the National Assembly may approve, from amongst members of the National Assembly.
Article 53 :
(1) The President shall appoint a Provincial Minister for each province from persons who are members of the National Assembly.
Article 55 :
There shall be a Cabinet consisting of the —
(a) President and the Vice President;
(b) Ministers; and
(c) Provincial Ministers.
There two problems that emerge from these provisions :

First, the NCC is wrong to perpetuate the current practice of appointing ministers from Parliament.  Many have argued for non-parliamentarian ministers but none more so clearly than Henry Kyambalesa. In general, I am persuaded that the incentives for better performance would be enhanced through a clear separation between the parliamentary and ministerial roles. Many MPs do anything to pander to the incumbent President just to get a better job. Another aspect of the "politics of poverty" is the familiar sight of   MPs (like the current Home Affairs) crossing the floor. Competition between parties is vital for democracy and clearly we can't have that if the incentives are weak for MPs to remain loyal to their parties. There's no good reason why the status quo should be maintained, apart from the incumbent government using it as an excuse for controlling opposition MPs. As such I recommend that we see a clear reversal in this area from the current draft bill.

Second, and more worrying, Articles 53 and 56 seems to stipulate the optimal size of Government for all occasions. These provisions were actually from the Mung'omba Draft and they are poor.  To make it clear that there should be positions of Provincial Ministers (and Deputy Ministers) is ridiculous. It would be good to see some flexibility that allows any incoming Government to define for itself what it regards as the optimal size of Government - assuming it can justify those positions. Government structures need to be flexible and allow for positions to emerge as well as disappear. Many of the positions are pointless and expensive but because they are in the constitution they are maintained.

Consider the case of provincial ministers. Does anyone know what a provincial minister does? Provincial ministers are pointless. They have no regional autonomy, they are unelected and above all they have no policy levers. As my friend pointed out to me recently they are only useful to the ruling party during campaign time. All I have seen is that they go round meeting chiefs as part of on-going campaigns.  But even those that would try to work hard, its actually a no win job. The holder has no leverage on development since the power is held by other more specific ministries, yet people see the provincial minister more often and often blame them for lack of development. So I say lets get rid of that or atleast allow someone to be able to do it if they see fit. n my view I would rather we got rid of provincial ministers and replaced them with stronger city level mayors. At present it looks like we are tying the hand of any future progressive president interested in reducing the current bloated government. If we mandate provincial ministers that is 9 regional department we can't save bureaucratic waste. Does anyone really want this inflexibility? I don't!

The Zambian Economist is currently reviewing the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill 2010 before it formally responds to the Legislature. All posts in this ongoing review can be found at the Constitution of Zambia page.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for creating this forum. It will help to inform and deepen critical thought on the issues raised by the NCC.
    On this matter of ministers. I follow most of your argument until you say
    "It would be good to see some flexibility that allows any incoming Government to define for itself what it regards as the optimal size of Government - assuming it can justify those positions. Government structures need to be flexible and allow for positions to emerge as well as disappear. Many of the positions are pointless and expensive but because they are in the constitution they are maintained."
    While I agree with you in theory that government should be "flexible", I can't imagine any government around the world "shrinking" because "it just made good sense". In tough economic times a government might shrink under compulsion, but voluntary?...I highly doubt it. What I would propose instead would be a fixed number of ministers that is rebalanced at every election cycle to reflect proper representation of each constituency based on population.

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  2. Thanks for this!

    I think it is vital people for their views rather than rely on the so called "experts". Its after all their constitution.

    On your point : "What I would propose instead would be a fixed number of ministers that is rebalanced at every election cycle to reflect proper representation of each constituency based on population". I think Article 51 does fix the number for ministers but not including deputies I think. That's my reading. So perhaps more clarification on that is necessary.

    However, I do think restricting internal positions by mandating provincial ministerial positions is unfortunate!

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